The Garden in June

I’ve planted out my squash, courgettes and beans.

A colleague gave me the courgette seeds. He says – despite their ugly appearance – they are the best tasting he’s ever grown. The variety is Rugosa Fruilana.

The winter squash are mainly Uchiki Kuri. These bright orange onion squash are perfect for small families or single people. They also store well.

Japanese Hokkaido Pumpkins
Japanese Hokkaido Pumpkins aka Uchiki Kuri

The other three are leftover seed – Candy Roaster and  Hungarian Blue. They’ve been plonked on the remains of the old compost heap in the far corner of the garden.

I have winter cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli and kaibroc which still need a cage erected to protect them from the pigeons and cabbage white butterflies.

I will also sow some Cavolo Nero/Black Kale soon for winter.

I’ve had amazing 100% germination rates for borlotti beans from seed saved by my friend Di. I’ve also sowed some May Beans that I cadged from the Garden Organic heritage seed library via the Norfolk Organic Group.

Climbing beans ready to be planted out

I’m also growing Violet de cosse, Czar runners and Greek Gigantes beans – all climbers. The first producing purple french beans. The other two mainly butter type beans for drying.

I swore I wouldn’t grow tomatoes this year – too much trouble watering them but somehow I have ended up with a dozen or so – from friends. Green Derby, Roma and Baby Plum. They’ll go outside once the broad beans are finished against the warm wall.

Lemon Verbena, Purple Sage and French Tarragon

My cuttings have done well. Easy if you follow a YouTube video. Next up are pelargoniums.

More ruby chard, parsnip and beetroot seed has been sown.

Celeriac seedlings have gone in.

They’ll need regular watering if they are to come to anything.

The real success story are the globe artichokes – last year they were just getting established and yielded only a few. But they’re prolific right now and quite early. A joy to eat with a thick mustard vinaigrette.

 

Soon it’ll be time to sow winter veg like endive, mustard greens and lettuce as well as red chicory.

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Getting to know you

This is the first year I’ve grown turnips.

At first glance they seem rather unglamorous.

But I’ve been making an effort to get to know them.

That’s still an ongoing process but I’m very pleased with the initial results.

The first attempt at a quick turnip pickle was a bit of a disaster – too much salt.

But second time around it worked a treat – the underlying sweetness of the turnip coming to the fore while retaining the bite.

I got the idea from “Japanese Farm Food” by Nancy Singleton Hachisu.

You could use purple topped Milano turnips – as I did. Or daikon radish aka mooli would work equally well. My turnips are still quite small – slightly larger than a golf ball.

The recipe calls for 675g of the topped and tailed vegetable sliced into 3mm rounds or half moons – I used less – but I’ve left the quantities as per the original recipe except for the salt which originally called for 27g!

Save a couple of handfuls of the young greener shoots and leaves in the middle and slice them roughly.

Sprinkle on a little salt (the recipe was too salty for me). I literally took several pinches and then rubbed it into the turnip greens and slices.

Then zest a lemon and slice it into very thin strips. Do the same to some peeled ginger (about a teaspoons worth). Add it to the turnip along with two small dried or fresh chillies.

Mix and leave for ten minutes. Eat alongside your main meal. It keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.

Kabu no shiozuke

To grow turnips, I sow four or five seeds per module and then transplant outside into a vegetable bed that’s been mulched well with about an inch of compost.

They do well in a clump of four or five – a bit like radish and beetroot which I grow the same way.

They’re a good early catch crop – and I may sow some for an autumn harvest or try daikon instead – sowing after the longest day.

When I harvest I take the biggest of the clump near the stem and twist and pull gently – holding the remainder in place with my other hand. They will carry on growing – repeat until you’ve used them all or they’ve gone to seed!

Pigeons like the young tops but I didn’t mind that too much so didn’t bother protecting them.

The greens are nice (as are radish) to eat. They’re slightly peppery and go well in a stir fry or blanched and then cooked with chilli and garlic.

I used this superb recipe.

 

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Perennial Vegetables

As I looked around the garden recently I became aware of how dependent I am on vegetables that come back year after year.

Rhubarb has magically sprung up over the last month or so with its huge scalloped leaves creating a dramatic edge to the main vegetable garden.

It’s  accompanied by delicate clumps of  chives in the gravel path which have just started to bud and will soon break out into spiky purple flower heads.

Next to them are four thriving artichoke plants. I was given the slips by a friend, Julie, a couple of years ago and last year we had our first real crop. I will divide them next March and give some away.

Stridolo or bladderwort in the foreground has paired up with another perennial – artichoke.  The new strawberry bed was under the fleece to the left of the picture but that has now been removed!

And then between the artichokes and some gooseberries is a stand of sorrel which never fails at this time of year.

The other side of the garden is a bed of five year old asparagus which has been cropping for the past couple of years. It should last another fifteen or twenty as long as it’s kept well weeded and mulched and the thuggish horseradish next door doesn’t move in and take over!

All of these plants are perennials and they provide a much needed bridge between the winter veg and the new season’s sowings which won’t really yield much until June.

There are a good few self sown plants which are providing us with food – the wild rocket is flourishing since it turned a little warmer. Coriander has surprised me by establishing itself with no effort on my part. Parsley is so prolific I’ve been potting up unwanted plants and giving it away.

The apple and pear trees are in full blossom and a thornless blackberry’s been heavily pruned and then trained along a rough home-made hazel trellis.

The new strawberry bed looks pretty healthy and a few flowers are heralding the possibility of some fruit in this first year. I’m currently trying to decide whether to mulch with straw or not.

On the annuals front there are lots of seedlings ready to take the place of veg like ruby chard and oriental mustard that’s bolting and going to seed. I have a great selection of squash including my favourite Uchiki Kuri or red Hokkaido Kuri, and hundreds of pricked out celeriac – many of which I will give away.

A colleague has given me the seeds of a yellow lumpy courgette, variety rugosa fruilana. Apparently – despite it’s ugly warty appearance – it is delicious. Can’t wait to try it.

I have been given tomato seedlings by a couple of generous friends – Roma from Janet who’s also given me peppers and some tenderstem broccoli to try out. The others were heirloom varieties from Caroline down the road – who runs a community garden in Great Yarmouth.

My leek seedlings are looking good – they will be planted in shallow clumps of four or five rather than singly in deep holes.

So for the time being all I really have left to do is sow my beans which will go in home made potting compost over the next week or so.

 

 

 

 

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Sowing parsnips and carrots

Carrots and parsnips are the only veg I sow direct into the ground.

They don’t like having their roots disturbed whereas other seeds can be multi sown and then planted out when they’re bigger giving them a better chance against the birds and slugs.

Always sow parsnip from fresh seed. I picked up some Hollow Crown in the supermarket today – and fingers crossed they do better than last year when they completely failed to germinate.

I don’t have much success with carrots either – again dodgy germination seems to be the problem.

So despite the rain and the drop in temperature I’m giving them both another go, inter-sown between my rows of onions.

I’m hoping the smell of the onions and garlic will deter carrot fly.

Parsnip seed

I created four shallow drills by drawing the sharp end of my dibber across the veg bed, then watered them before sowing half with carrot seeds half with parsnip seed as evenly as I could.

I drew the earth back over them and tamped them down lightly with the back of the rake. No watering in needed as the drills are already moist.

I’ve also planted out some lettuce and kohlrabi seedlings.

Talking of carrots – I braised some shop bought ones with my indefatigable ruby chard. Just steamed in veg stock until almost all the liquid is gone.

The other vegetable that has overwintered despite everything is fennel. The bulbs are really quite small once I’ve peeled away the rough, frost-burnt outer leaves.

But they were delicious with crushed chopped garlic, olive oil and stock – again allowing the liquid to evaporate until there’s an unctuous sauce in the bottom of the pan which gets a hit of lemon juice stirred in right at the end as the pan comes off the stove.

So fresh and completely different from raw fennel which I know many people don’t like because of the strong aniseed taste.

The other thing I did was brine some oriental mustard leaves. It’s a key ingredient in several recipes I love including a silken tofu soup from cookery writer Fuschia Dunlop.

I’ve started growing them under fleece after I was given some plugs by the Escape Project at Swaffham.  They’re creating a therapeutic show garden at Chelsea this year!!

Previously I bought it ready made from a stall on Norwich market – imported from China.

Now I make it myself following this amazing recipe – although I only made a third of the quantity.

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Pumpkin and Herb Quinoa

I had a quarter of the last Uchiki Kuri pumpkin/onion squash left so I decided to roast it in chunks with a little olive oil rubbed into the skin.

Here are some Uchiki Kuri also known as Hokkaido Squash growing last year. They kept well over the winter in a cool dark place

I then cooked about a cup of quinoa. Rinse it first as it has natural saponins or soapy residue that cover the grains. I wash it in a sieve and massage it while running cold water over it.

I use the absorption method – rather like cooking basmati rice. I use 1 1/2 times the amount of boiling water to the amount of quinoa in the saucepan. Add a pinch of salt and simmer covered on a very low heat for 15 minutes or until tender and all the water’s been absorbed. I remove it from the heat and leave it for another ten minutes.

I then placed it in a serving dish and added a tablespoon each of chopped chives, basil and mint and the roasted chunks of pumpkin and folded it all in to the mixture.

 

I served it with freshly picked purple sprouting broccoli steamed until tender and then dressed with a few shakes of umeboshi vinegar (salty plum flavoured brine you can buy in most wholefood shops).

I made some crunchy croutons from some left over tofu (about 200 grammes) that I’d cubed and marinaded in a couple of tablespoons of shoyu (soya sauce or tamari), half that of mirin (sweet rice wine), an inch of grated ginger that was then squeezed for the juice, and a teaspoon or less of toasted sesame oil.

I then rolled the tofu in cornflour and gently shallow fried it in about a half an inch of very hot sunflower oil in a small frying pan – I did it in a couple of batches and then finished them off in the oven.

They were then served scattered over the PSB.

It was all served with a fresh homegrown multi leaved salad from overwintered lettuce, raddichio and claytonia (aka miner’s lettuce).

Herbed quinoa would be very nice with any vegetables tossed through it.

This served about four people.

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